The Tampa Bay Buccaneers addressed another pressing need in the NFL draft, selecting Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round on Friday night.
Coach Lovie Smith is intent on retooling the offense, trying to surround offseason acquisition and projected new starting quarterback Josh McCown with playmakers capable of jumpstarting the league's lowest-ranked attack.
The Bucs finished 30th in scoring and last in passing and total offense in 2013.
They began the draft by selecting Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans instead of his much higher-profile college teammate, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, in the first round.
Seferian-Jenkins was the sixth player selected in the second round, No. 38 overall.
The 6-foot-5, 262-pound tight end had 36 receptions for 450 yards and 8 touchdowns last season.
"I'm going to bring explosiveness. I'm going to bring playmaking ability. I'm going to bring blocking. I'm going to bring an all-around tight who can play on all three downs, and a guy who's going to work hard, chase Super bowls and try to win as many games as possible," Seferian Jenkins said.
A two-sport athlete at Washington, where he also played on the basketball team for a portion of his college career, Seferian-Jenkins is the second tight end the Bucs have brought in since last season. The team also added veteran Brandon Myers in free agency.
Meanwhile, Evans flew to Tampa from New York for an introductory news conference.
The more Smith studied Manziel for consideration as the franchise's quarterback of the future, the more the coach became sold on Evans being able to help the team's struggling offense now.
The 6-5, 231-pound Evans was Manziel's favorite target the past two seasons.
Smith and general manager Jason Licht watched lots of film of the Aggies quarterback in the weeks leading up to the draft. It was difficult to ignore the guy catching many of Manziel's passes.
"How could you not notice him? He played with the Heisman Trophy winner. You see him and ask yourself: `Who is this big guy who continues to catch touchdowns and make big plays against top competition each week. ... It was an easy decision for us," Smith said.
Pairing Evans with veteran Vincent Jackson, who's about the same size at 6-5, 230, provides McCown a tandem of big, strong receivers similar to the combination of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery that helped Tampa Bay's new quarterback post the best numbers of his career in Chicago last season.
"We have our twin towers now," Licht said, adding that in addition to being "incredibly strong" Evans has deceptive speed and "catches about everything thrown to him."
Evans had 151 receptions for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns in 26 career games at Texas A&M, even more impressive when one considers he didn't begin playing football until four years ago, when he was a senior in high school. Before that, he was a basketball standout with dreams of playing in both the NBA and the NFL.
As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he had 82 catches for 1,105 yards and five TDs. Last season, the 20-year-old averaging 20.2 yards per catch, finishing with 69 receptions for 1,394 yards and 12 TDs.
Evans is looking forward to playing with Jackson, who's averaged 17.4 yards per catch and scored 52 touchdowns in a nine-year career with San Diego and Tampa Bay.
Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who's had five 1,000-yard seasons, including the past two with the Bucs.
"I feel my style of play fits well here. ... All my hard work is paying off. I'm living out my dream," Evans said Friday, adding that he doesn't anticipate a difficult transition going from catching passes thrown by Manziel and getting comfortable working with McCown and Tampa Bay's other quarterbacks.
That doesn't mean he won't miss his old teammate.
"He made me better, I made him better," Evans added of playing with Manziel. "We had a great relationship. He's one of my best friends. It was great playing with him."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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